Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Home is Where the Pets Are - Part One

Dear Lassie, Penny 1, Penny 2, Passover Turtle who boiled to death on the radiator, ducklings Spider and Jimmy Webb, Martha, Grover, Daphne, Leonard, Santa Fe, Furry 1, 2, 3 and unnamed progeny, Licorice, Wilson, Gabby (briefly) and Keaton.

At every home I've had and in all of my memories, you are defining and primary players.

First pet I remember is my very own Lassie.

"Lassie."  When I watched the tv show, if it seemed that Lassie was in trouble, I had to leave the room - I was so upset about any possible calamity happening to her.  Did I care quite as much about Timmy or (esp) about Jeff (who was the only real master in my book)?  I don't think so.

I was so excited.  We drove out into the country and I brought her home in a cardboard box on my lap.

She was what my Mom called "a roamer."  Of course, why we didn't have a fenced in yard or keep her leashed is something that I wonder about now.  But, in my memory, back in the 1950's in Pottsville, PA, everyone just opened their back doors and let the dogs out.  We kids, though, loved that beauty.
Jamie, Janey Deacon, me & Lassie

After a few episodes of "losing" her and getting her back, my parents gave her to someone back out in the county.  God bless her, she found her way back.  "Lassie Come Home" indeed.  They told me that she was returned to that "good home" and I so very much hope that she was.

Next up, Penny #1.  One of my father's clients gave us this pup.  I haven't found an actual photograph but the one below is close in my memory.

Again, the laissez faire attitude of the day contributed to Penny's end.  She was hit by a car in front of our house.  Right before Thanksgiving, as I recall.  I was so upset that I was allowed to miss school, be swaddled in my parents' bed - pink flocked headboard - and served the traditional convalescent menu of Cream of Mushroom soup and crackers as I cried and cried.  And I remember my mother's arms and bosom as the only comfort this world had to offer.

I think my mother had a dog or two as a child. I know that she had a big, very realistic-looking stuffed dog named "I Wonder" who meant a lot to her.   What "I wonder" is the etymology of naming a dog "I Wonder" in the 1940's. There's a dog up the street here who look very much like that beloved toy;  I'm always happy to be dragged to the existing "I Wonder" by Wilson and Keaton.  They pull me to my mother.

Next up, Penny 2.  A Toy Manchester Terrier.
 She and Mom had a symbiotic relationship.  When Mom was frustrated or angry, it would've been wise for Penny to stay far from Mom's right foot.  Yet, at other times, Mom and Penny would seem to pose for the cover of Dog Fancy.

Penny hung around for a good while after I left and Mom eventually had her put down at a ripe old age.

The whole pet thing changed once I left home for college.  The next pets were mine and mine alone.

I adopted Martha in the Quad at Syracuse University in the early Spring on my freshman year.  We weren't supposed to have animals in the dorms but Martha made it through the semester and then went home with my roommate since cats were verboten at home in Pottsville.  Martha was a great chaperone, though.  She had excellent timing about jumping - claws extended - onto the face of any guy who was trying to jump my bones on my narrow single bed in the divided double in Boland Hall ("Here Comes the Sun" being played endlessly or at least up to the Kent State riots and the occupation of the Admin building that May).

Monday, May 16, 2011

May Daze

parts of an email to a friend:

Wondering if you're in Israel.  It's sad to hear about more violence there, although not unexpected.  If there, hope you're far from the madding crowd and have a little time to yourself to wander and observe. I like the term "Arab Spring" and all that it connotes.

(Correspondence about Patti Smith's "Just Kids" and Robert Mapplethorpe as a cult figure.)
Funny thing about "charismatic" or "iconic" figures.  Often they first see themselves that way and then find others to perpetuate their"vision."  From what I've read and know, Mapplethorpe had a personal aura that transcended his talent which eventually got confused with it.  (I've met those people; it's intoxicating and leaves a hangover of epic proportion.)

Sort of like Jonathan Larsen of RENT fame.  Of whom Sam Shepard said to me when we were doing BURIED CHILD, "Maybe if I off myself, this will be a big hit."  btw, Sam is pretty charismatic himself although observing his penchant for young blonds of any kind was definitely a legend-breaker for me.
Sam, assistant director Michael Unger and director Gary Sinise from our Broadway production

I don't know if I ever told you one of my favorite moments in that show (to which all of the "in-crowd came, JFK Jr on roller blades, Brad & Gwenyth, Bruce & Demi in a cloud of marijuana smoke stepping out the limo).  But Gary Sinise was doing the film "Ransom" with Mel Gibson at the time
and Mel came.  At the very serious moment at show's end when Terry Kinney was carrying the disinterred muddy corpse of the eponymous baby across the stage, there were a serious of loud guffaws from the otherwise deadly silent orchestra.  Mel.  It was just Mel.

Got some more flowers and herbs and dug a patch for a tomato garden with early girls,
roma, grapes and some heirlooms - German and yellow striped and red.  Enjoyed our lilacs in full bloom (putting me in mind of Whitman's "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed."
my lilacs

So, back to my small cave and small and big traumas tomorrow.  Didn't read enough - finished the MacDougal (worth a skim since you're such a runner) and some mags.  Musically, give Robbie Robertson's a listen.  I also caught up on the first three episodes of Season Two of Treme.
Such a fine show...it takes real attention and commitment.  And, oh, the music.  You would find it worth your time, I think, although it's valuable to get through Season One for the rewards of Season Two.

No nibbles on selling the house; that's why I'm doing the gardening stuff.  Even if it sold tomorrow (and it won't), we'll have the summer here.

Fab that Book of Mormon is a really big, fat hit...virtually sold out til April 2012, but they have Ken there Tues - Sun from 10am - 1pm (commute included).  So, I'm hoping we can find someone to help with the spring clean-up, mulching, etc.  I simply don't have enough time.

Simple eating.  A sausage and savoy cabbage pasta.  In the slow cooker, some pork tenderloin with rhubarb, shallots, herbs, white wine..to be served with polenta.  And planning on that great raw kale salad with avocado and grape tomatoes (first rate virgin olive oil and balsamic
are key). Tonight perfected scallops provencal.  This after a return to Clinic.  Clients imprisoned, hospitalized and overall either needy, resistant or just clueless.

Food motivates, enhances, sustains.  So do music, flowers, words and friends.  And dogs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I'm planning to get the photo album of my childhood home from my brother and share some of those here.  It was an amazing house.

In the meantime, how about these two pictures of my maternal line?  The first is my grandmother Julia Moshinsky Grabowski, taken in Poland in 1914 when she was 16 years old.

Julia was always on the go.  Sewing.  Cooking.  Making pierogis at the Polish Catholic Church.  She lived with my aunt Esther and helped raise my cousins Paula and Pam. Her apple butter pancakes live in a Proustian dimension.  In her 60's, she went back to Poland, rode on horse-drawn wagons and saw her remaining relatives.  She brought me a beautifully embroidered peasant blouse that was one of my treasured wardrobe items in the late 60's, early 70's and even beyond.  She remembered every single child's, grandchild's and great-grandchild's birthday with a card and some cash carefully tucked in.  I wear the diamond stud earrings that she left me with love and pride.

And then there's my mom, Valerie Cecilia Grabowksi Lightstone.  The middle daughter of three.  A woman of beauty, style, humor and high aspirations for both of her children.  I always was sure of her love, sometimes a little too much.  She gave me the vision to look beyond even while wanting me close.  But, so much of what I am today I owe to her.  (Even in some of the choices I've made in direct opposition to hers!)

Both of these women were with me today as I went about my Sunday and celebrated Mother's Day.
From the Lobster Eggs Benedict I chose for lunch, to the hard work weeding and planting in the garden, to having a good and loving conversation and a couple cheap laughs with Eli, to the phone call with Zeb; and his cards, one that complemented my style (a paisley shirt he reclaimed) and the other laced with ironic humor and love, to the asparagus and mushroom risotto whipped up for dinner, to the nice dry vodka martini that's next on my agenda....they live in me as I did in them.

This one's for you, Mom.

 Anything Goes

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Que sera sera

btw, my French tutor had never heard this expression.

Cleaned out closets, drawers, medicine cabinets on Saturday and early Sunday.

But the weather was so grand that I dashed to my favorite garden store/nursery
and bought my herbs, a vivid red hibiscus and rustic pot, a basket of charming Johnny
Jump Ups.

A neighbor gave me baby spinach plants and I'll go back for tender lettuces and the window box hanging petunias that define and enhance our little cape.

Even if the house sells, we'll have most of the summer here so let's make the most of

In my spare time, couldn't resist buying this.

And here's quite an easy and tasty dinner recipe.  Just add some truffle oil.  And if you spill the French grey sea salt all over the kitchen floor, it's not at all being like in Cape Ferret (not that I've been there...but I'm guessing).


Oh yes.. Ken and I had our weekly 3 hours of being home at the same time not late at night or early in the morning and agreed that we won't sell short.  At least not yet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


"catch the sun"
jamie cullum

Not much been happening on the house front.  A few showings; tomorrow a realtor open house with a general open house sometime to follow.  

There are many houses on the market but I see that a few repped by our agent are "sale pending."
This whole notion makes everything just a little poignant.  Zeb and Eli made the effort to get home for the day on Easter.  Will it have been the last holiday in their childhood home?  How will the dogs understand it?  After all, their lives are so calm.

I've been in the garden picking flowers and checking on the tender green shoots of perennials I've planted over the years.  They are other things that I've planted and nurtured.  And, although I don't think I'll miss all the work they take, I will miss them.  Assorted images below.

And, of course, every dawn over Long Island Sound is now like I've never see dawn before.

Even in the bunker that is our basement, I find relics of young artists in the making.  Lost to their biographers and archives but for a mother with a camera. (It's a door, sideways).
Two mallard ducks returned for several springs.  Called Abdul Quakbar and Mrs. Quakbar.  They'd waddle up to the front door, quack a bit and wait for their bread and water.  We also have had a spider (or two) who return every year and grace us with their nightly efforts which leave me humbled and wondering about my own routine efforts and how they might otherwise be seen.
Tonight's finale.  Our wedding and honeymoon were scheduled around the opening night of CATS on Broadway, Ken being Production Carpenter.  I should have known what stage that set.  I spent opening night wondering why so many light bulbs were already burnt out but enjoyed the party at the Waldorf. And Eli had the best childhood Sundays ever going into the theater with Dad.  In fact, after the HOME ALONE movies, when asked what he would do if lost in NYC, he replied, "I'd tell someone to take me to CATS."

Writing this blog helps address some of this.  Maybe.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Hometown - Part One

I began this post a few nights ago; and while going back and forth between sites, closed this one and lost everything.  But not really, the words and photos were lost but not the memories or the idea.

And isn't that what this particular selling and moving thing, as well as the general idea of change and transition in life is all about.

btw, let me share a little counseling axiom:  You can have change without transition, but you can't have transition without change.  The easy explanation of this is that you can make an external and superficial change without the internal, life-altering ones but not vice versa.

If I want to take you on a deeper detour down the line, we'll explore The Stages of Change as developed by Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente.  Useful for all sorts of things.  Trust me.

Back on topic.  Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  An anthracite coal mining town in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Full of high society WASPs but plenty of immigrant Poles, Irish, Germans, even Jews.  How the hell did they get there?

Best known for the now celebrated Yuengling Brewey, the oldest family brewery in the US, or so they say.  I grew up with the smell of hops wafting down the hill to Garfield Elementary School (now a parking lot, I'm told) and we had field trips into the plant.  Yuengling's also had a ice creamery across from the brewery on Mahantongo St.  A logical use of shared resources and the kinds of ice creams for which otherwise objective adults who now buy lavender, green tea, lemongrass, bittersweet artisinal chocolates continue to yearn.

Pottsville's other claims to fame include author John O'Hara ("Pal Joey," "Butterfield 8") whose early novels include"Appointment in Samarra" (about Pottsville and Schuylkill County society) and the Pottsville Maroons who may have been one of the first NFL championship teams until they were charged with a violation (fledgling reporter John O'Hara covered the team).

Our first house, to which I was brought home as a preemie (my mother recounted that I looked like a "plucked chicken") was on Norwegian St.  I have a horizontal memory of being carried into a room with a lamp over a chair and my paternal grandmother in the room.  This is apparently accurate although there is no photographic confirmation.

At some point, we moved to a big old house on Mahantongo St.  Just down the street from the Yuengling mansion.  Except that we had tenants.  One in the former maid's quarters.  Another family in the former billiard room/trunk storage on the third floor.
Yuengling Mansion

Mostly, I remember Pottsville as a time of true innocence.  Unaware of the history or the class discrepancies.  In my memory, it was all like this:

and like this:

But there's another story here.  My parents'.  Two immigrant families.  A Polish Catholic girl, born in the USA to two Polish immigrants who found her way briefly to NYC as a hairdresser (and a night or two at the Stork Club - my brother has the ashtray) and a Jewish immigrant young man who arrived in 1920 at age 12 from a long lost Polish/German/Russian village and who, speaking no English, graduated from high school, went to Penn State and was valedictorian of his class and got a scholarship to Harvard Law, serving up creamed chipped beef (or shit on a shingle) to the creme de la creme.

They were, both back in Pottsville, set up on a blind date by their opthamalogist, and eventually eloped to Atlantic City, giving my cousin a note and a quarter to deliver it to my mother's mother.  Just recently got that note when my Aunt Esther died and my cousin provided it.  Family tumult immediately ensued; the end result of anti-Semitism and tragedy two decades away.

A time of reflection and process.  Excuse the commercial.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Gleaning

Last week was a flurry of activity and angst (that's the double A..what would make it triple?  Anger?
Arthritis?  Aching? Arm-wrestling? Anxiety - that's a given -? Avarice? Aging)

This week? Stasis.  Both welcome and grounding.

It's allowed me time to appreciate my home, the dawn when walking dogs - sun rising and changing the blue-black into fiery orange and then to cerulean blue, feeling the sun on my face and arms;

Point No Point
the dusk as I watch the sun set from my bedroom windows with streaks of peach, rose, aubergine, a russet turquoise tumbling into darkness with sparkles of stars.

The cardinals, blue jays, the pileated woodpeckers and the same larks that Romeo and Juliet bemoaned (for very different reasons).  Not to mention the wild parrots who continue to amuse me with their colors and their adaptability. They now come to the bird feeder and are blase about the dogs, cats, and baby strollers.  They probably should be living in Park Slope.

Our backyard is very modest and in need of serious and kindly attention.  I went out and bagged the dog poop (no delicacy possible) and gently moved the leaves and twigs from my herb garden (built by Ken as an homage to the base of the Statue of Liberty and first serving as sandbox for small boys and friends.) Looked at the pale and tentative emerging shoots of the flowers and other green things that I've planted and tended for decades now.  And wondering/hoping they can be loved by someone new.

And torn again by what I need and want to do for house and garden vs what I need and want to do for me.
The Flaming Lips - All We Have Is Now

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In through the out door

It's quiet on the house front.

While reviewing the posts to date, I notice that there is a definite absence of humor.  No question the house has had its share of laughs at our expense.

One of the first that comes to mind happened soon after Zeb was born on November 28, 1984.  I went to the attic to start to get the Christmas decorations.  The attic just had beams with insulation and I made a misstep and below is more or less what Ken, sitting with Zeb on his lap, witnessed.

More recently (and more frequently than I care to count), I've locked myself out of the house.  My only point of entry at those moments becomes the dog door.  Even Zeb's friend Patrick Marro has used this technique in order to sneak into the house to leave us flowers from Zeb and Eli on our anniversary.
Warning to burglars:  Two large and protective shar pei only allow friends in through their door.

Video below is not me.  But you get the idea.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thanks to friends

Here:  Sue, Jerri, Carol, Peggy, Earle et al

There and Everywhere:  David, Kristen, Alison, Margery, Sarah, Andrea, Joe & Shel et al

 "beautiful wreck"  shawn mulllins

Dear Zeb

Part of an email from Zeb.


...I saw the blog for the house, it makes me too sad to read it. Hope it's helping you process things tho....


Dear Zeb,

I'm sorry that the blog and the potential sale of the house make you sad.  And, yes, the blog does help me to process it.

I'm going to share a few other thoughts with you about the whole thing.

Many elements have gone into making this decision (and, who knows, it may not sell).  One obvious one is that the house is beginning to get a little run-down and that makes me sad to see - the collapsing garage, we need a need roof, the windows in your room need to be replaced and the basement could use an overhaul.  That's just for starters.

The yard needs work and a new fence and gate.  Between Dad's long hours in NYC, commuting time and degenerative disc disease, he can't do everything that he'd like to (and certainly not what I WANT him to - lol).

Over the years, Dad and I chose both to live fairly well and to "invest" in you and Eli rather than pay off the mortgage, renovate the house or even save what we probably should have.  We absolutely have no doubt that this was the right decision and would do all over again...in a New York minute.

You and Eli had rich childhoods with good friends and the opportunity to use your imaginations, learn and explore.  You went on to have first-class educations both at Fairfield Prep and then at two prestigious private universities.  And, I think you had some memorable and formative vacations, camp experiences, cultural excursions, etc etc.

Those are the things that last.  The memories, the evolution of the men that you and Eli have become and the rich family history that we share. 

The house was the framework for some of this but the lives lived within are what truly will withstand the passage of time.  A house needs to be full of life.  It's been a good house and a fabulous home and I hope it gives that opportunity to whomever lives here in the future.

If you think about, I'm the person who has spent the most time in the house making it a home.  Dad's been gone at work a great deal, you and Eli have been in school here and then away and now living in New York and Brooklyn.  So, it's very difficult although certainly there is some excitement, too, within the uncertainty.  Nothing wrong with change or a fresh start.

I remember reading this quote:  "Home is any four walls that enclose the right person."  Or, in our case, any four walls that enclose the right four people and two slobbering dogs.  You can take that to the bank!

I love you, Zeb.

xxooxxoo  Ma

"This House is Not for Sale" - Ryan Adams

Monday, April 4, 2011

Preparation is Key

No bites after the weekend showings and Open House.

There's both a sense of relief and a sense of disappointment.  Our house is quirky.
It's not one to which the traditional Stratford buyer will respond.  We're gonna need
some "outsiders" like we were.

But, checking with the "experts" anyway.


Okay, we're pretty good up to item # 4.

And then I read about "home staging."

Professional stagers are highly skilled artists. They can take a blank canvas and paint a sensuous portrait without ever lifting a paint brush. Stagers possess the skills of a top-level designer and they create dramatic scenery that appeals to all five senses...The Kitchen is the "heart of the home," and here is practical advice for making that space sparkle:
  • Apply orange oil to cabinets that appear dry, which will renew their original luster
  • Put out large bowls of fruit such as polished apples, bright oranges, luscious grapes
  • Arrange colorful and fun cookbooks on the counters
  Bring the outdoors inside through the use of greenery and plants; in creating clean, crisp spaces and arranging furniture with plenty of room to walk around. She says bathrooms are essential to dress well. "Bathrooms should look open, airy and delightful." A favorite tricks is to add baskets filled with spa treatments such as:
  • Towels, tied with ribbons
  • Scented soaps
  • Creamy lotions
  • Moisturizing & Facial jars
The back yard needs staging, too. For patios and decks, bring in plants and potted flowers, and adds additional color by setting the picnic table with bright, plastic dinner plates.

We're screwed.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Open House

cellar door

Today's the Open House.

Did I clean the house because I want it to sell or just because I can't bear the thought of strangers coming in and thinking, "Christ, what kind of woman allows a house to look like this?"  Which is a corollary of why I always clean the house before going on a trip.  I think to myself, "If the plane crashes and people have to come over to comfort Ken and the boys, I need the house to look nice because I don't want it to reflect badly on the dead, namely, me."

It's also certainly possible that it will not sell.  All this agita for nada?  I can see friends nodding their heads and thinking, "Nina, this is different because...?"

Looking through my digital photo albums for this post and I realize that I don't have many pics of the house since my photographs went primarily digital.  And also since those little boys became young men.  I have numerous actual photo albums filled with fading photos of boys with underwear on their heads, boys covered head to toe in mud, boys with friends at birthday parties at museums, McDonald's, bowling alleys.  Photos of boys dressed as bats, stinky cheese head, CATS characters, in drag.  Every holiday, every hamster, every snake.  Boys snowboarding, boys on beaches, boys in cars and on planes.  First days of school and graduations.

Going cold turkey today on searching NY Times real estate, streeteasy.com and Craigslist.  Absent while nameless faces stroll through the rooms that hold thirty years of the lives of four people, two cats and three dogs.

I'd like LCD Soundsystem to take me out the door.  With help from the Muppets.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011


Today I fell in love with our house. 

Or, more specifically, some of the features that Ken has built in and the renovations that he designed.  As well, as the decorating we've done to make a contemporary interior out of a traditional cape.

This came after a day of fretting over the dogs and how they might adapt to city life.  No door to open to allow them to scamper into the backyard or a deck to sit on to watch the squirrels.  I keep telling myself that the dogs aren't the reason not to do this - which is absolutely true - but they will be included in the challenges and compromises of finding a new place.  They do have some city characteristics even though they don't know it.  The regular walks, 2-3x a day, something that many suburban dogs don't get, their backyards being their entire universe.

So, on this drizzly, grey evening, as I left the house well lit by lamps and candles for a showing, they and I went to the beach, not another soul in sight, and they had a good old romp while I searched fruitlessly for more sea glass.

We came home.  Two of us had duck jerky.  The other, after a round of mat Pilates, has poured a Friday night martini.

And then it became clear.  Yes, I do love what we have made of this house.  Completely and absolutely.  But, what I don't love (or even like) anymore is yard maintenance, snow shoveling, weeding when I'd rather be reading or at a museum.  And not having time with Ken on our rare shared days off because we're both too busy with "the house."

This family has always been at it best when working together on shared goals.  A change might just be the thing.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

C'mon In

Well, today was a roller coaster...and the midway lies ahead.

While at work, Madeline from the Realty Office called to see if someone could see the house at noon.  No go.  I was in my office in New Haven, Ken at a work call in New York.  After a little back and forth, rescheduled for 10 am tomorrow, before Ken leaves for "Book of Mormon" rehearsal.  (Note:  I think that I am entering my own "Scary Mormon Hell," sans Johnny Cochran and Adolph Hitler and no dancing skeletons so far.).

Then, John our realtor, got on the phone and told me that he thought that the couple to whom he planned to show the house this evening would make an offer.

It seems too fast, a lockstep march to ....what?

Fortunately, not a day of crises and imminent need at the Clinic.  That is, if you don't count meeting with the Director and my client who may be administratively discharged for getting into a verbal altercation with another of my clients in the parking lot because the girlfriend of the former and she, the latter, had been in jail together and one or the other ratted on one or the other.  Oh, and then my client asking me not to be mad at him because although he is working and doing well, he still deals and that's why his urine screen in positive because the dope gets into his pores.  And the client on 120 mg of methadone and 6 mg daily of xanax can't understand why her mother is taking her into court to get custody of her disabled daughter; but why can't she get more take home bottles of methadone anyway.
And, honestly, these are the easy ones.

So, I had some time to frantically search the NY Times Real Estate section, StreetEasy.com and even Craigslist to figure out what we could afford, and where and why.  Dogs need a park and maybe a balcony or terrace.  Ken needs to get to Times Square.  We want at least two bedrooms and, oh please,
maybe a bath and a half.

Brooklyn has more engaging architecture and bang for the buck;  but is unknown territory except for Bushwick which lacks green and seems teeming with 20's and 30's although I've seen evidence of diversity. And my remaining NYC friends are mostly on the upper West Side.  Pre War apartments, Woody Allen without the cinematographers.

No resolution but raced to Marshall's for some candles... evening showing, scent and color.  And one
anti aging creme for 10 bucks, too.

Walked dogs, decluttered (again) and then John texted that "buyers" were going to reschedule.  OK.  Texted again, maybe at 7:30. OK, but not much later, please. John texted again...another reschedule.


Cafe Orwell, Bushwick

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


What I don't want this blog to be about is the past.  I want it to cover the present experience of putting a house on the market, possibly selling it, finding a new place to live, packing up and starting over in late mid-life.  I want it to tell the story and also to cover the logistical, geographic, financial and emotional elements that come with it.

But some "filling in the blanks" seems necessary to set the stage.

My husband Ken, 64 yrs old, bought the house as a bachelor thirty five years ago.  He wanted to be near the water and had what turned out to be a pipe dream of working at the Stratford Festival Theatre.  He's been a Broadway tech supervisor and stagehand for about forty years and has been commuting on Metro North 6 days a week for about those thirty five years.  About a four hour round trip commute.  This winter finally did him in.  During one of the snowstorms, he got on a train at Grand Central Station at 10:30pm and walked through the front door at 5:15am.

If anyone had actually said to me in 1982, "Let's get married and move to Stratford, CT," I would have replied "What!!!  Are you out of your mind?"  I loved living in New York City.  And, at first, we had the best of both worlds.  You all have a general idea of NYC (although it's changed since my wayward youth) but you should know that, despite its problems, Stratford has definite charms.  A beautiful coastline, our neighborhood (Lordship), the kind of place where generations lived and where people were able to leave their back doors unlocked and you could go in, grab some milk or oj, leave a note or leave your kids.  Note to thieves:  That's changed in the last 10 years.  Locks and alarm systems now.

So, I didn't want a house.  But a house became a home.  More so when Zebadiah (born 1984) and Elias (born 1987) came along.  Their elementary school with playground is across the street from our house.  And nothing beats those "mothers on the playground" friendships, most lasting when certain of the mothers bond over shared points of view, parenting issues or spousal conflict.  Those friends are there when it seems no one else in the entire world is.  Sue, Carol, Jerri...you know who you are.

Meanwhile, I commuted sporadically due to an empathic partner (thanks, Jane, wherever you are) who understood what it took to be a good, proactive mother and helped me to understand that once you have children, they come first no matter what.

I also felt that it was important that, if someday one of the kids had drug problems or something, I didn't feel guilty because I had left them for days or hours on end with a non-parent (no matter how wonderful.. and we had wonderful.  Kudos esp to Rosey and Donnette who took care of all of us and taught me so much).  Of course, when one of them DID actually have drug problems,  I had no one to blame but myself.  Let it be known that all of those named above, as well as great friends on both coasts and my brother Jamie, were there for me and said child every step of the way.

Throughout all this, I nursed a desire to return to NYC.  A place where I actually feel more calm and among my tribe.

Now that may be a reality.  But, at 59, and being a non-resident for 27 years, it's not a return anymore.
It's a re-invention. And a leap of faith. With financial restrictions - and two dogs who are used to a deck door and fenced in yard.  But those two "kids" live in Brooklyn and there are sustained friends in a couple of the boroughs.

Much unknown, but first..

..the sign went up.  The listing is online. The photos and sign made my heart clench. Still do. 

I had to tell our neighbors, best we've had.  Their kids said "Don't go.  We'll miss your dogs." Andrea said, "Dennis is away but he'll be so upset."  Dennis plowed me out while Ken was gone doing "Book of Mormon" this winter.  Dennis also was there to help when one of the cars died and Eli didn't know what to do.

Colleagues at work who have embraced an old but game gal are added to the mix.  They have helped me to live the counseling mantra that change is possible without transition; but transition is not possible without change.  Think about it.  Plus, they make lunch, every day, an occasion.  And support me in this, and in every moment and every day, in ways I didn't know could happen.

Our  realtor, John (met while aforementioned dogs - two Chinese shar pei, Wilson and Keaton - were walking me) is our delightful cheerleader.

He's bringing first potential buyers tomorrow night.  I'll put on the lights, light some candles and drag the dogs (in late spring sleet and snow) over to Sue's.  We'll have some wine.  Maybe a pizza.
And freak out about all this in the way that only friends do.  Our combined four dogs will run around and I do hope that Wilson doesn't piss on her couch again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

For Sale

Thirty years in this house.

Living in NYC in the 80's.  With an evolving Broadway career as Producer.
And a funky but affordable (in 1980) apartment that abutted the Plaza Hotel.

A mix of tenants.  "What's the Frequency, Kenneth" - the REM  song inspired by
Dan Rather's mugging - was a case of mistaken identity of fellow tenant Kenny
Shaffer (who had an early satellite hook up with Russia at the end of the Cold

My dog, Grover, was also on Broadway in "Oh, Calcutta."  New Year's Eve
he didn't come home.  Next day he did, coat smelling of cigarettes and whiskey.

Worked in the Kennedy family offices for awhile.  Turned down the production
assistant job on "Dreamgirls."

Fell in love with a guy who owned a house in Stratford, CT while being production
assistant, assistant press agent, assistant stage manager on "Sophisticated Ladies."

Brought two babies home to Stratford.  Lost the NYC apt.  Produced Tony
winning and nominated shows.  Was Room Mother at schools.   Played roulette
with child care.   Cut up worms for the snakes.  Made snow angels and read
"Lord of the Flies."  Cub scouts, homework, kid arrested for graffiti (we were just
trying to express ourselves, mom).

In the interim, Co-produced"Driving Miss Daisy,"  "Buried Child,"  "Last Night of Ballyhoo."
Gambled on a big show (Beach Boys catalog) and lost.

Planted flowers, herbs.  Shoveled snow.  Learned French.  Both sons got into great colleges (minimal financial aid but huge debt).

Became a substance abuse counselor after a child's challenge.

Kinda sorta thought we could do it all.  And did, for a long while.

Now, we're selling the house.  Or trying to.

"Home" Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros